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YOUR KIDS Switched Off Try these methods for managing kids’ screen time.

button. “Find something your kid will enjoy,” Gill says. Depending on age or interests,

kids could read, build model air- planes, work jigsaw puzzles, play outside or even start a business. At least some of the alternatives

should involve what Gill calls “shoul- der-to-shoulder time” with a parent. For example, instead of sending your son to watch TV while you fix dinner, you could say, “Hey, why don’t you help me fix dinner?” Shoulder-to-shoulder time can

ONE TO TWO HOURS a day. That’s the amount of time kids should spend with TVs, computers and videogames, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP says any more exposure can lead to “attention prob- lems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.” Seven hours a day. That’s how

much time AAP research and other studies show kids are actually spend- ing on entertainment media, much of which glorifies sex, violence and alcohol. And that doesn’t even address what kids are missing out on during those hours, including physical play, homework and family interaction. But reducing kids’ screen time

from seven hours to one or two can be challenging. For some expert advice, Scouting turned to two experts (and sisters): Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill, authors of Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life (Viva Editions, 2013).


Identify the Problem How much media are your kids really consuming? How about you? Withers says some families start by keeping a media diary on everyone — including parents — for a week or two. After that, they work together to come up with sensible limits they can all live with. “If [parents are] addicted to the screen, they need to quit. Talk to the kids about how hard it is,” Gill says.

Designate Spaces for Screens Both Withers and Gill recom- mend keeping electronic devices in common areas like the den or kitchen. This lets you better monitor both how and how long kids are using media devices. A glance is all it takes to see whether your son is doing homework or playing Call of Duty.

Offer Alternatives When TV time ends, you have to do more than just push the power

also occur on the couch, Withers says. When you watch TV with your kids, you have the chance to ask questions that can make them think critically about what they’re watching. “That’s possibly more important than how much they watch or don’t watch in the first place,” she says.

Reward Achievement Once you get your kids down to a reasonable amount of screen time, you can offer additional time as a reward. When Withers’ son, Jeremy, was young, he got only half an hour of screen time a day, but he could earn an extra half-hour for each hour he spent reading. “That was our way of driving home to him that reading was twice as important as media time,” she says. A parent Gill worked with tried a

similar approach. She had noticed that her son really enjoyed creating picture books in school. So, he created books for his 4-year-old brother and earned screen time, too.

FIND MORE parenting strategies at parenting.


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